3 THINGS THIS WEEK
1. Kick Back, Don’t Relax
What it is: In Seattle, a viral “kickback” party at Alki Beach ended in two arrests and at least one injury this Memorial Day Weekend, according to NBC News.
Why it could be a theme this summer: The kickback in Washington state mimicked “Adrian’s Kickback,” a massive party on Huntington Beach in California that started as a birthday party and turned into a riot. What these two kickbacks have in common is that they started with an open-ended invitation on TikTok. The Seattle party, though, specifically sought to copy the original California kickback. It’s possible (and some would even say, likely) that more open-ended party invitations like this one will be doing the rounds on TikTok this summer, all with the goal of collecting as many young people in one place as possible. A viral party invitation with no cap on who or how many people can attend sounds like a great time until someone gets hurt (or arrested), so it’s worth having this trend on your radar.
2. Over the Rainbow
What it is: June marks Pride Month, a celebration of LGBTQ+ culture that has turned into a mostly corporate holiday.
Why it’s a little different this time: Every year, Pride Month seems to become a bigger and bigger deal — in terms of marketing, that is. Pride Month 2021 brings opportunities to buy an assortment of rainbow gear, from tennis shoes to Legos to costumes for your pets. This practice has a name: “rainbow-washing,” and it refers to cashing in on Pride and other celebrations of queer culture in order to make money. Brands seem intent on doubling down to use Pride month as a way to prove that they are a queer ally and appeal to young consumers. Marketing survey data from YPulse shows the Gen Z as a whole is passionate about efforts to end LGBTQ+ discrimination, but that they’re also savvy consumers who are turned off by branding efforts if there’s even a whiff of something shallow or exploitative. While companies will continue to make a show of prioritizing LQBTQ+ issues during Pride, they run a high risk of being called out by cynical TikTok teens who feel they are just pretending to care.
3. What Teens Need From Parents
What it is: A crisis counselor wrote a helpful list for The Gospel Coalition about what teens actually need from their parents during the teen years.
Why it’s worth reading: There are some common sense adages, such as “be relational, but don’t be your teen’s best friend,” that might be old hat to veterans of the teen parenting sphere. But the article offers some advice that could be counterintuitive or, at least, a bit surprising. Counselor Leia Joseph advises doing your best to get involved in a hobby that your teen loves, like gaming, art, or a sport, so that you can “be enthralled by what enthralls them.” She also advises that expecting your teen to fail once in a while is an important part of helping them transition to independence, and acting shocked by their sins or failures will only make them feel uncomfortable sharing information with you. Even if this list doesn’t seem actively applicable to your teen, it’s good to keep in mind for other young people in your life who might see you in a mentorship role.
Slang of the Week:
Sigma male: a male who neither submits to nor requires submission from others; a sigma male is seen by some as embodying healthy masculinity and self-confidence. Typically used in memes or YouTube videos about having a certain stoic and independent mindset, the sigma male “mascot” is actor Keanu Reeves.
Ex: “I’m not about being the leader of the pack, I’m about self-reflection and that sigma-male life.”
Of Memes and Messengers
Last Friday, commentator and comedian Bill Maher invited New York Times global affairs columnist Nicholas Kristof onto his HBO show, Real Talk. The subject was supposed to be the recent spate of Middle Eastern conflicts between Israelis and Palestinians. During the interview, Maher got in a dig at celebrities and influencers who had felt compelled to weigh in on the conflict on social media. “I don't think kids understand [this conflict], and when I say kids I mean the younger generations – you can't learn history from Instagram! There’s just not enough space.”
Whether you agree with him or not, Maher raises an interesting point. Media personalities of all stripes, from beauty influencers to reality stars, seem to feel increasing pressure to interact with subjects of global importance. These people didn’t become famous for being well-educated on foreign policy, or for their nuanced understanding of the conflicts that span human history. Many of them are not equipped to speak to these things at all. And yet, theirs are the voices that have risen to the forefront of media coverage of these high-stakes issues.
On social media, teens see countless soundbites and memes that are aimed at simplifying the most complicated moral questions of our time. They also hear the rallying cry to “educate themselves” about human history, and the internet provides them access to a wide spectrum of (sometimes questionable) sources for doing so. Too often, “educate yourself” is simply a call-to-arms to make your thinking fall in line, a reminder that there is only one “right” way of looking at the world and it is a blithe and colorless view.
With Google at our fingertips, there is also this pervasive illusion that obtaining the answer to any question under the sun is as simple as typing a question into our devices. The search might spit out a statistic or a fact, but it can’t give you the wisdom to know what to make of it. And that discernment is what makes all the difference in sorting out Instagram memes from reality. The first step comes from knowing that a repost, a retweet, or even attending a protest with a controversial slogan on a sign are all things that might get you some attention for a cause. But it doesn’t mean that you have an informed opinion or that anyone else should listen to what you have to say.
Here are some questions to spark conversation with teens on the issue of discernment:
- What does it mean to educate yourself? Is there a way to really educate yourself without any help from other people?
- How do you figure out which voices to listen to on social media, and how do you discern when someone might not know much about what they’re saying?
- Who are some of the voices that your teen trusts when it comes to figuring out the truth about the world around them?
Keep the Faith!
- The Axis Team